How to Read a Food Label to Lose Weight
When first starting a diet, you may be hearing and reading about which foods to avoid to lose weight and ones may accelerate your results. But rather than singly calling out and pinpointing foods, individuals should learn how to read food labels, as they can be a valuable tool to assist and accommodate weight loss.
Approximately 65 percent of consumers already refer to the Nutrition Facts panel to make decisions about purchasing or consuming a food or beverage. So if you lie in the remaining 35 percent of nonusers, understand and learn how to read a food label!
How to Read Nutritional Labels for Weight Loss
In addition to learning how to read a food label for healthy eating and overall wellbeing, you can hone in on the Nutrition Facts label for weight loss. The Nutrition Facts label provides information on the nutrient content of food and the number of servings in the package. Key considerations include:
The Serving Size
Acknowledging the serving size can dramatically help you reach your weight loss goals. All the nutrition information indicated on the label is based on a single serving, stressing the importance to remember several food products contain more than one serving. You should also compare portion sizes (the amount you actually eat) to the serving size listed, as you may be doubling or even tripling caloric intake without realizing it, subsequently hindering weight loss efforts.
Though calories are not the only mainstay of weight loss, they do play a large role in your efforts. Calories are important to identify and consider, as too many of them can lead to weight gain. Along with identify the calories in a single serving size, consider whether or not the calories are coming from a nutritional source, including whole grains, fresh produce, and lean proteins. Also be mindful of "calories from fat," as the percentage can tell if a product is high or low in fat. While not all fats are created equally, it is important to recognize they are higher in calories compared to carbohydrate and protein.
During the scrutiny of fat and its concern for weight gain and chronic health risks, one dietary component flew under the radar... But surfacing and ongoing research suggests we should turn our heads to the amount of sugar we are consuming, as consuming sugar in excess increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Startlingly, the American Heart Association (AHA) estimates Americans consume an average of 80 grams per day, while the AHA encourages reducing intake to more than 38 and 25 grams of sugar per day for men and women, respectively. Until all Nutrition Facts labels indicates the amount of added sugars, reducing intake of sugary beverages and sweet treats and recognizing how food companies are hiding sugar can support weight loss or maintenance. It is also important to be weary of label definitions added to the product. For instance, a "sugar-free" food is not synonymous with healthy, as the sugar may be compensated with fat and other unwanted additives to enhance the flavor and appeal.
While frequently promoted to improve bowel regularity, fiber can also assist weight loss. High-fiber foods are generally low in calories and tend to be more filling than non-fiber foods, controlling hunger levels and reducing the risk of overeating. Research has shown individuals who consume a high-fiber diet have more successful weight loss results and maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI). The daily recommendation of 38 and 25 grams of fiber for men and women, respectively. And especially if purchasing bread, cereal, or other grain, look for a product with at least three to five grams of fiber per serving.
Also known as daily reference values, daily values (DVs) provide nutrient information for making wise food choices regarding fat, protein, carb, fiber, sodium, and vitamins and minerals. The nutrient references are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, with healthcare professionals encouraging the selection of products with high intakes (20 percent or greater) of fiber, vitamins, and minerals and straying away from foods without any significant DVs, as those products tend to be supply empty calories and lack nutritional value.
But Don't Skimp the Ingredients List...
Though the Nutrition Facts label is extremely valuable, we must remember ingredients matter most when it comes to health. When reading an ingredient list, the largest amount of the ingredients will be listed first with the smallest amount towards the bottom. The ingredient list is also valuable in identifying ingredients you may be sensitive, allergic, or intolerant to, including shellfish, sugar substitutes, and wheat. Ultimately, most nutrition experts recommend the rule of five, meaning choosing food products with less than five ingredients, along with opting out on foods with unfamiliar ingredients. Following these simple rules are foolproof ways to promote less processed and more wholesome foods within the diet, setting the stage for weight loss success!